Briefs filed today in Ryan Ferguson murder case

Friday, June 15, 2012 | 3:36 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Briefs were filed Friday in Cole County Circuit Court addressing both sides of the Ryan Ferguson murder case.

Judge Daniel Green will review the briefs Monday, according to the state Attorney General's Office. Ultimately, Green will rule to either grant or deny Ferguson a new trial.

Ferguson is currently serving a 40-year sentence for second-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the 2001 strangling death of Kent Heitholt, 48, the late sports editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Ferguson was convicted in 2005.

Kathleen Zellner, Ferguson's attorney, said her 92-page submission summarized all of the evidence in the case. She called the brief the most comprehensive document ever filed on Ferguson’s behalf.

Zellner said it referenced 10 years of procedures from trials, pre-trial depositions and habeas hearings.

During the case's evidentiary hearing in April,  two witnesses recanted their original testimonies.

Charles Erickson, who implicated Ferguson's involvement in the murder, now says he has no memory of that night and is unsure of his and Ferguson's involvement. 

Jerry Trump, the former Columbia Daily Tribune janitor who has provided eyewitness accounts, later said he falsely identified Ferguson as one of the men he saw the night of Heitholt's death.

The Innocence Project, a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people, also filed a brief Friday in support of Ferguson, Zellner said.

Zellner said she expects Green to take sufficient time to review the material but has indicated he wants to make a decision quickly. 

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott. 

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Delcia Crockett June 16, 2012 | 7:36 a.m.

Another waste of the taxpayers' money.

If this school-age child had not been out with his Daddy's car and keys and with the money plied by Daddy, as well as being plied with drinks illegally in a bar by his daddy's daughter, then he would not even be in jail.

Parents, wake-up. This is a classic textbook example as to what can happen to your child when you do not keep up with them, as they are your responsility as long as they are underage and in your care.

Get over it, Bill Ferguson. Some of us are tired of paying the tab for your poor choices and for your lack of responsibility the night this nightmare began for all of us.

Let the editor rest in peace.

Let us all move on.

Some things your money cannot buy, and some things are worth believing in because they are right, and - therefore- worth believing in.

Our police who work to the good, our prosecuting attorney who speaks for us all, and for our judges who sit by the Grace of God Himself.

Just stop.

Your story is not bought anymore.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor June 16, 2012 | 9:50 a.m.

Wow, Delcia. You couldn't be more wrong on this one. The man did not do the crime for which he is doing the time. That much is obvious to anyone who has read up. I hope he gets a new trial and further hope that the prosecutors correctly decide that they don't even have enough evidence to retry!
Good luck Ryan and Bill!

As far as a message parents can take from this is never, ever, take the safety and liberty of your children lightly, even when you have truth on your side!

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 16, 2012 | 10:52 a.m.

MikeM: I read where Erickson knew two indicators not released to the public: That Heitholt's car door was left open, and that the vehicle of a Trib employee left through the alley shortly before Erickson/Ferguson arrived.

Do you know anything about this?

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett June 18, 2012 | 7:05 p.m.

@"Wow, Delcia. You couldn't be more wrong on this one. The man did not do the crime for which he is doing the time."

He is a convicted killer, and it is not the fault of the "bad old police," "the bad old jury and judge, nor "the bad old prosecuting attorney."

More than a few people are tired of our taxpayers' money going toward this.

This murder was preventable.

All it had to do was a parent be responsible.


Lesson to be learned there, from the cold, hard facts of life.

Parents, heed.

Know where your school-aged children are.


(Report Comment)
mike mentor June 18, 2012 | 7:20 p.m.

The only thing I know about that is you said you read that in the other paper on an earlier thread at some point. My problem is the authenticity of this information. Did the police tell the trib this? Did the trib take quotes from Erickson and assume the police hadn't told him this information already? Anything that came out of Ericksons mouth after he arrived at the police station is suspect at best thanks to the appauling work by the detective. We don't have all of Ericksons history at the station recorded, but what we do have is bad. Really, really bad. It is plain to see that Erickson was given all of the information by the detective. In all the interview tapes I have seen, Erickson gets nothing right. Nada...

So, IMHO, this question of these two details in no way rises to the priority level I would give to other evidence in the case that we do know for sure.
The hair found clenched in the victims hand doesn't match either kid.
I think they also had skin under the nails that they couldnt match.
The car that the boys were supposedly riding around in was taken to the FBI crime labs and tested for trace evidence. Nothing.
So, even though we have physical evidence at the scene of what columbia police called a grisly scene, none of it can place either kid at the scene.
Add to this all the noise from Ericksons troubled stories that dont match up with what other witness's testified to or what we know to be the schedule of traffic lights( he said that they stopped at a light and had a conversation with a witness who says it never happened and during a time when the stoplight would have been flashing yellow...).
You have a witness who now claims the prosecutor told him to lie to get his trouble reduced. You have another witness who was witheld by the prosecutor in violation of the law. This is all from memory. There is more if you want to look. If the question of what Erickson knew still looms larger for you than the rest of this stuff, watch the tape of Erickson and the detective. It's shameful and I think you will question the authenticity of the claim that Erickson knew details only an involved person would know after you view.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett June 18, 2012 | 9:06 p.m.

@"The only thing I know about that is you said you read that in the other paper on an earlier thread at some point."

What we do know that this school-aged minor was not home in bed on a school night, and - therefore - he cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he was not at the crime scene.

While other evidence proves that he was.

That is how the case built against him - not if the police asked him certain questions.

If you have ever served on a jury, then you know that a jury is not easily taken in, but has to consider all the evidence.

Therefore, if Ryan could prove - beyond a shadow of doubt - that he was not there, then he would not have a lawyer who second guesses in "he-said/she-said" now.

Therefore, Ryan is a convicted killer, because - in fact - he was there. He did it.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 19, 2012 | 4:31 a.m.

@mike mentor:

The person you are exchanging posts with is not going to change her opinion. You might as well take on the project of dislodging the Great Pyramid of Cheops, AIR FREIGHTING IT to Columbia, Missouri, and installing it at Francis Quadrangle (now THAT, I'd like to see).

I am confused about something else, not having to do with Ryan. Most of us do not put our street addresses in any of our posts, but in a post appearing in this newspaper on Saturday of the 2011 MU Home Coming weekend this person did exactly that.

She needn't worry about any visits from me. The closest I'll come is driving on Forum Boulevard.

All for now. I'm spending a few days in a place that's cooler.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor June 19, 2012 | 12:25 p.m.

@Ellis @Michael
I was actually trying to passify Michael's concerns about hearing that Erickson knew details not released to the public. (I forgot to put the @Michael at the top of the post.) You are one of my favorites here, so I think I need to be honest with you. You should not challenge me to something you think to be impossible. That is highly motivating to me. I think I could organize some funds from the artsy folks around here. With all of the turmoil in the Egyptian government right now, I think I could probably confuzzle the Egyptian officials in to believing I was there for legitimate purposes. I think I could convince owebama that my cargo was made up of Egyptians that wanted to come to America and receive amnesty in exchange for an owebama vote. Owebama would gladly fly my cargo over on Air Force One as part of a stimulus package! However, once I had the blocks of stone over here for assembly, I am afraid I would have some construction dust that might get in to the creek and interfere with the breeding grounds of the yeller belly mosquito. No way to get past a few dead bugs these days. Foiled!

I am glad you are not an LEO. I can't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wasn't there. Uh Oh... (poster looks over shoulders...)

You say, "other evidence proves he was".
What other evidence are you talking about?

There is not one shred of physical evidence that ties either kid to the scene even though there was physical evidence all over the place.

There was one witness who said it was not them, but that witness was withheld from the defense by the prosecutors office. Had this witness testified, maybe the jury would have had enough information to come to the correct decision.

The main witness against Ryan was Chuck who was under the influence of drugs and alcohol and even more importantly had signs of mental illness. He has since said he doesn't remember anything. He never did know anything as evidenced by the interview tapes with the detective where the detective had to tell Erickson all of the details. (Again, if the jury had good info, could things have been very different?)

The next most influential witness was Trump. He testified that he saw the two boys. (jury thinks he is telling the truth...)However, Mr Trump has since not only recanted, but said that prosecutor Crane told him to lie and say what Crane wanted in order to get prosecutor Cranes help for trouble that Trump was already in. Again, very troubling.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 19, 2012 | 1:49 p.m.

MikeM: That's for clarifying. I did not know you were addressing moi.

Being prostrated by heat, I don't remember where I heard about the indicators and, yes, I posted on it before but I'm too lazy to look it up.

Your explanation is plausible (that he was fed the info), but such a thing should show up in the interview tapes, right? Those 2 items are...unusual...and I remember thinking both were pretty good indicators. Rather odd things to divulge and/or feed, dontcha think?

"Plausible" isn't sufficient for me in this instance. For me, indicators are a big deal and the claim has been made that Erickson knew them without prompting. I would like to see where he divulged this info, the context of it, etc. So far, I've posed this questions a couple of times, and the only thing I get back is "he was fed the info" claims.

Well, that's an insufficient defense no matter which case we're talking could be claimed in EVERY criminal case where indicators were known.

I understand the defense does not have to prove Erickson was fed the info; all they have to do is cast doubt.

But those supporting both men should be able to come up with something more substantial for the rest of us hoi polloi. For me, indicators are a big deal.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 22, 2012 | 2:28 p.m.

@ Mike Mentor:

I'm back. I admire someone who accepts a good challenge. Actually, the one I've suggested isn't that difficult. First, obviously, we'd need to disassemble the Pyramid. The upside of that would be we'd probably put an end to unemployment not only in Egypt but the entire Middle East. And if they're busy, they won't have time to be fighting!

(This is looking up already.)

I specified air freight. I have no idea (but there's probably an estimate somewhere) what those blocks weigh, but you won't get many on one cargo plane.

Fuel costs could be impressive.

Cost calculations might be best done using scientific notation, numbers raised to various powers of ten.

If you can get the blocks to Columbia Regional Airport we can transport them by flat bed tractor trailers to the MU campus.

We'd use legal and illegal aliens (including any that arrived here from outer space) as construction labor.

I haven't measured. Do you think we can shoe horn the pyramid into Francis Quadrangle? It won't fit on the Mall at MS&T (but neither will anything else).

(Report Comment)
s Hecht July 5, 2012 | 10:40 a.m.

I don't live in your town, but I've been following this story and I am more than convinced that the police and Prosecutor were very motivated to convict ANYONE they could pin it on. Each new detail that comes to light further convinces me.

In the light of all of this information, me, my friends and scores of people around the country are sitting in disbelief that a young man's life could be so utterly destroyed by an unrepentant prosecutor when no physical evidence presented itself to back up the claims made by one guy. Chuck Ericson is mentally ill. If a mentally ill person's testimony should be the gospel every time, well that's demoralizing.
But you know what's more demoralizing: Having to read yet another comment by Delcia.
Everytime I come to the tribune to catch up on the latest on the Ryan Ferguson front and read the comments I am confronted by a barage of comments by this woman. And it really gets in my craw how she cares nothing for the healthy process of the justice system. Can she not, for one minute, put herself in the shoes of a kid who was accused of a crime when NO physical evidence can tie him to the crime scene. (if the glove doesn't fit you must acquit--remember that). Even Casey Anthony was acquitted. Physical evidence must back up witness testimony and if not we life in chaos! I can't believe that in this great country, the USA there are people who couldn't care less about the proper functioning of the judicial system. Yes, it costs tax payer money. The money we pay gives us freedoms and protections. I will happily pay my taxes to make it possible for all of us to not have to operate within a draconian autocratic system that can easily abuse citizens' rights to achieve political ends. The appeals process was developed to safeguard from possible corruption in the judicial system. THESE ARE PROTECTIONS WE WANT! Without them we live in a very tenuous world. Should we scrap the appeals process just because it costs taxpayer money? Fine, but beware when they come for you.
Furthermore, I believe as an American that the punishment should fit the crime. The original framers of the constitution intended that. The punishment for a 16 year old kid going out and getting drunk should be 40 DAYS grounded! Not 40 years in prison. Just because a kid goes out and gets drunk, this does not automatically make him a killer. Is any of this getting through to you ma'am?
God bless the USA and our protections.

(Report Comment)

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